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Russia: Death Toll Rises To 50 In Bombing As Rescue Efforts End

Mozdok, North Ossetia; 3 August 2003 (RFE/RL) -- Rescuers pulled the 50th body out of the rubble of a Russian military hospital in North Ossetia overnight, and called off efforts to find any survivors of the suicide attack. A spokesman for the Emergency Situations Ministry said today that no hope remains of finding anyone alive. He said 64 people are still being treated in hospital for their injuries.

Russian officials suspect Chechen rebels of being behind Friday's (1 August) bombing. President Vladimir Putin vowed yesterday that terrorists acts will not stop what he called efforts aimed at fostering peace in Chechnya.

A series of attacks blamed on Chechen separatists have killed some 150 people in Russia since May.

A statement from the military prosecutor's office in the Caucasus region said the head of the hospital has been arrested. The statement said Lieutenant Colonel Artur Arakelian is accused of "criminal negligence" for failing to protect the hospital.

ITAR-TASS quoted Russia's minister for Chechen affairs, Stanislav Ilyasov, as saying Russia's security services cannot be blamed for permitting the blast, caused by a suicide bomber. He said the security services are doing the "possible and the impossible" to thwart terrorist acts.